John Byng, a British admiral, born in 1704, executed at Portsmouth, March 14, 1757. In 1756, Minorca being menaced by the French, Admiral Byng was appointed commander of a squadron consisting of 10 ships of the line, with which he proceeded to its relief. After arriving in the Mediterranean, finding his equipments inadequate to the service required, he sailed for Gibraltar to get provisions and refit. He now learned that the French had succeeded in landing 19,000 men in Minorca, and had reduced nearly the whole of the island. Although a council of war pronounced against the attempt, Byng made an effort to establish communication with the garrison, which, after an indecisive engagement with the French fleet, proved unsuccessful. For his conduct on this occasion he was superseded, and on his return homo was brought to a court martial. After a long trial he was found guilty of cowardice in the presence of the enemy, and sentenced to be shot, but recommended to mercy. His general unpopularity and the rancor of his political enemies prevailed against this recommendation, and the sentence was carried into execution.
Macaulay brands his punishment as " altogether unjust and absurd".